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Night Wolves Biker Gang Gets Crimean Gift

Bikers of the Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves leave the Russian Consulate in Brest, Belarus, after a press conference on April 28.

SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine -- A Russian nationalist biker gang has been awarded a free plot of the land taken from Ukraine.

According to a document seen by RFE/RL, the Night Wolves were given land in the Crimean peninsula city of Sevastopol to build a "multipurpose patriotic center for extreme sports."

The document, which bore the official city seal, gave no reason why the land was being gifted.

Russian authorities in Sevastopol have given the bikers six months to draw up plans for their center, and promised that there will be public hearings on the planned construction.

The land in question in the Black Sea port city has a high market value, with a square meter going for 96,000 rubles ($1,960), according to a reporter with the Crimean Desk of RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service.

The Night Wolves are backers of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- who has ridden with them -- and supported Russia's controversial annexation of Crimea in March 2014.

The Night Wolves are subject to U.S. sanctions for alleged active involvement in Crimea and for helping recruit separatist fighters for Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The biker gang sparked controversy in Europe earlier this month when it set off from Moscow to Berlin to mark the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

EU officials criticized the planned journey and Poland denied them entry, reflecting strains over Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict.

Eventually, some members did make it to the German capital, where they marked the May 9 Russian celebrations by laying flowers at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptow, in formerly communist east Berlin.